Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



Bass player Esther Isenstadt ran classified ads in the back of the Cleveland Jewish News in the 1970s and 1980s: “Sophisticated music for discriminating people” . . . “Leave your records at home and bring LIFE to your party” . . . “From ‘The Hora’ to ‘Beat It.'”

Esther was gigging regularly when Yiddishe Cup started in 1988.   I didn’t run into her.  She was working the senior-adult circuit, while Yiddishe Cup was doing the glam jobs: bar mitzvahs and weddings.  Esther was not a klezmer musician.  She played mostly classical and pop — and some Jewish.

When I eventually met Esther, she was in The Weils assisted living facility. She was 86 (2003).  She approached me after a Yiddishe Cup senior-adult program to say hello.  I told her I knew of her.  She smiled. I had one of her songbooks; I said I bought it used at the Cleveland Music School Settlement.  She smiled again.  Then she didn’t smile. She said, “I never thought I’d end up here!”

preisler220Ed Preisler — another Weils resident — chimed in, “I came out here to die.” (Ed died six months later.)  Ed was the 1946 Ohio Amateur Golf Champion.

Ted Bonda, the former owner of the Cleveland Indians, was also there.  I switched gears; I asked Ted, Ed and Esther — and the other people schmoozing after the program — if they knew Mickey Katz.  One resident knew Mickey from Yale Avenue, Cleveland; another, from Berkshire Road, Cleveland Heights.

I asked the group if they were familiar with the word kile (hernia).  Nobody knew it.  That was surprising.   Kile is the punch line in Mickey Katz’s song “16 Tons [of Hard Salami]” . . .  “The balebus (boss) promised me a real gedile (glory), instead of geldile I catched me a kile (hernia).”  The Weils was apparently not heavy-duty Yiddishists.

Esther Isenstadt teaching ESL, 2000

Esther Isenstadt teaching ESL, 2000

Esther Isendstadt had played in four suburban orchestras, raised a family, taught elementary school, led party bands and taught ESL in “retirement.” She was a Glenville High graduate, as were Bonda and Preisler. Glenville High was where Jewish overachievers went to high school in the 1930s. [John Adams High students — like my parents — would have disagreed with that. John Adams, in the Kinsman neighborhood, was more proste (working-class) than Glenville, but equally proud.]

I learned “Shir Lashalom” (A Song of Peace) from Esther’s book.  That tune was a must-play in 1995 — the year Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.  The lyrics were in Rabin’s pocket when he got shot.

Esther had rubber-stamped Esther Isenstadt Orchestras on every other page of the used song book.  A Jewish bandleader with a rubber stamp.

I got a rubber stamp.

Esther died last month at 93.

There weren’t many bands with names like the Esther Isenstadt Orchestra in the 1970s.  There still aren’t.

CJN 1984

CJN 1984

Illustration by Ralph Solonitz.

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1 Ellen { 11.24.10 at 9:59 am }

Older folks are such a treasure — let’s teach everyone to appreciate and care for them lavishly — so when we get there, we’ll be set….

2 MARC { 11.24.10 at 2:39 pm }

When I first heard Henry Sapoznik sing the “16 Tons” song I thought he had written it.

3 Bill Jones { 11.28.10 at 2:35 pm }

Too bad Esther’s last name didn’t begin with an “L,” for with those initials for her orchestra, “ELO,” she might have mistakenly been booked as that other ELO.

Then again, E-I-O (Esther Isenstadt Orchestra) does sound as thoroughly American as “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Sorry, I can’t help myself. Always doing micro-examinations to determine the hidden meaning in these sorts of things.

Back to the yeshiva I go, to work gematria.

4 Steven Greenman { 12.01.10 at 9:51 am }

I have used songbooks and sheet music that has her band stamp on them too. What instrument did she play? Thanks for writing all this about her. I was always curious to know who she was.

5 Bert { 12.01.10 at 9:59 am }

To Steven Greenman:

Esther Isenstadt played acoustic and electric bass.

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